I am a residential student ambassador for ARU. Every time I do an accommodation tour with future students and their parents, I’m always asked 'Which is better, student halls or houses?'
The whole 'living at university' experience can be both daunting and exciting, so I have summed up some advantages and disadvantages of living in halls or private housing. I hope this will make the decision a bit easier!
In Cambridge, where I study, ARU has three student halls, and a couple of houses (Collier Road) on campus. We also work in partnership with private providers.
ARU's properties are within a five-minute walk of the University and near convenience stores or supermarkets. They give you the safety net of living independently while familiarising yourself with your new surroundings.
The halls offered in partnership with private providers offer hotel-like facilities; modern settings with gym room, communal room and a TV in your room.
Yet choosing where to live is another story. There are a number of different halls and houses offering different things. Much of your decision depends on what you would like to spend, and how active you want your social life to be. Student halls tend to be the most popular choice for first years.
Student halls: We have 24-hour on-site security; if you have any emergency you can call them for help. Private halls tend to have a reception to deal with any issues. Also, students need to tap their student card to access the hall so it is pretty safe.
Renting a house: If you rent privately via a landlord or letting agency, there is no guarantee that they will take on the responsibility of solving emergency problems for you. They are mainly responsible for the maintenance of the house.
Student halls: There are no hidden costs. All bills are included and you are also given free wi-fi. Some of them may include contents insurance.
Renting a house: You may not always have the bills or wi-fi included in the monthly rent. Costs do vary, too. If you are renting through an agency, remember there may be additional charges such as deposits. Beware of additional chargers incurred at the end of the year. You may prefer to contact energy suppliers yourself and submit your meter reading every month.
Student halls: From my experience, I would suggest that you bring a pair of earplugs before moving in. You can’t avoid freshers with hangovers having parties with bottles of cider, leftover pizza boxes in the communal kitchen, or people running around the corridor. It can keep you awake. Though, you can seek for help from residential assistant. It can still happen at any time.
Renting a house: You get to live with people you know and in an area you like. This year, I live in an apartment which is near Asda (one of the popular supermarket chains). My neighbours are friendly and respect each other: no loud music and no partying.
Student halls: If you are staying in halls, you won't necessarily have any control over who you live with.
Renting a house: It would be a lot of fun to stay with your friends. However, I’m personally slightly worried about the cost, and being able to find a house in time!
Student halls: I loved living on campus as everything you need is just a short walk away. Even if it’s snowing, I don’t need to worry about getting to campus.
Renting a house: This year I live about a 25-minute walk away from campus. You need to plan ahead and make sure you take everything you need for that day because you won’t have enough time to go back home and pick it up. Of course, you can find some private rented accommodation that is closer to university but you need to be quick. Those are quite popular!
In the end, whether you'd be better off living in halls or a house may boil down to your own personality.